Earlier this week, Amazon announced it will invest an additional $100 million in its Alexa Fund whose scope is set to expand. The company is now targeting additional investment opportunities around the globe and is looking to support the ‘next wave’ of firms and entrepreneurs with a desire to fuel voice-enabled tech innovation. The new investment was apparently prompted by the level of interest into the fund shown by startups outside of the United States, with Amazon revealing that its Alexa Prize challenge to build a conversational bot has received applications from 22 different countries. In addition, startups from more than 50 countries outside of the U.S. have recently applied for the Alexa Accelerator program, and Amazon believes now is the right time to expand the Alexa Fund on a global level.
The Alexa Fund was launched in 2015 as a dedicated venture capital program designed to invest in companies who want to innovate in terms of voice-based interactions. To date, the program invested in more than 30 companies across a wide variety of market areas including automotive, wearables, mobile computing, and smart home segments. In short, the venture capital is looking to support companies that want to innovate in terms of hardware products which can benefit from the Alexa Voice Service. It also promotes startups capable of delivering new abilities to Alexa-enabled devices through the Alexa Skills Kit and generally makes contributions to voice technology advancements including natural language understanding, text-to-speech, artificial intelligence, and hardware component design, as well as automatic speech recognition.
As for how new companies will be selected to join the Alexa Fund, Amazon is primarily looking to invest in startups with a customer-centric philosophy and strong leadership skills, as well as startups that are looking to innovate and solve prominent problems in creative ways. Portfolio companies will have access to a dedicated Amazon team which will help guide them on the path of Alexa integration, and in addition, Amazon is looking to help these companies indulge other parts of its ecosystem including Amazon Web Services and media. A few examples of successful Alexa integration include commercial key finder TrackR, smart home security firm Ring, low-power microphone manufacturer Vesper, and smart thermostat manufacturer ecobee.